Aberdeenshire has a wealth to delight the intrepid traveller | Job Binary

My introduction to Aberdeenshire is from the water. I set off from Edinburgh in the dark and when the sun came up I was wearing a wetsuit and diving gear. I roped my sister and my friend (so black eyed) and we followed the lead of Stonehaven Paddleboarding owner Dave Jacobs and headed out to sea.

I have a few days to see as much of Aberdeenshire as I can and find out what this largely overlooked area of ​​tourism has to offer. Bordered by the Cairngorms to the west, Aberdeenshire and its rivers Don and Dee flow down to the coast through fields and hills.

After a short lesson, we will SUP along a series of rocks and cliffs, the distinctive “pudding” rock of this coastline, to caves decorated with spiky pink sea urchins. Cormorants dive for breakfast and we watch seals and dolphins. An hour later we reach the craggy cliffs below Dannotar Castle and Dave shows us the best view inside the cave. It’s a great sight.


Our return to Stonehaven was prompted by the perfect heating solution, a wooden sauna in a converted horse box. We spend an hour alternating between sweating in the sauna, a quick dip in the frozen sea and a cold shower – euphoric and very Scandinavian. Hunger strikes, so we stroll down the promenade and award the winning fish and chip shop, The Bay. It’s as good as I expected, crispy batter, tender fish and spicy tartar sauce – top marks.


From here I headed inland to ‘Royal Deeside’ to spend the afternoon in the pretty towns of Ballater, Braemar and Banchory. I direct my friends south to the beautiful St. Cyr beach. It is a reserve surrounded by dunes and one of the best beaches I know.

I head to Banchory and refuel with a great coffee and cake at The Ride bike shop and cafe, then climb nearby Scoltie Hill. The walk begins in forestry, but soon gives way to native Sitka spruce woodlands and winding paths lead to Scolti Tower, a 20m tall monument to General William Burnet, a local landowner who once fought alongside Wellington. From the top of the Royal Deeside Tower, the horizon stretches to glacier-rounded hills, forests and the River Dee.

The weather has turned and my 5am start time is catching up with me, so I head to the former Banchory Lodge estate. It has been lovingly renovated and combines a traditional country house look with a bit of humor, substituting taxidermy for animal motifs. My spacious room has muted flamingo wallpaper, a tall leather headboard, and velvet armchairs. They are perfect for enjoying views of the River Dee.


The dining room features portrait wallpaper, traditional framed pictures, and a few top hat animals to make sure you grab attention. Winter food is on the menu – sausage and mash, pork and steaks. I choose the smoked salmon scotch egg (runny, genius) and the monkfish curry. The portions are generous, the staff are cheerful and the roaring fire is fantastic.

I want to see the coastal fishing villages on the north coast, so after breakfast I head north to Portsoy. The road takes me through the heart of Aberdeenshire’s lovely farmland: golden fields, neat hayfields and beautiful granite farms, with the occasional ancient woodland.


Aberdeenshire coastal villages tell the story of the rise, fall and modernization of Scotland’s fishing industry. Starting at Portsoy, the beautiful harbor at Portsoy was rebuilt in 1825 to accommodate the growing herring fleet. Today, it’s a quiet place, with vacationers outnumbering fishing boats. On a warm day, it looks like a great place to swim.

The next village down Gardenstown was once a hotbed of industry. In 1900, more than 90 boats operated from the port. In the quaint little museum on the harbor I was mesmerized by the pictures of the young workforce, teenage girls following herring boats and snapping a herring in a split second. Young men are learning the ropes. I admire the comfortable gansey, made of thick wool, woven in a particular pattern in each family to help identify poor souls lost at sea. It’s a reminder not to get too nostalgic about the camaraderie and community of the herring boom.

It seems like ancient history, but I was told that some of the children of the women in these pictures still live in the village. This will be the last time the elders remember the herring barrels in the harbor.

Around the bay is Crovie (pronounced Creevie), a very steep walk down to the village. Here, picture-book stone fishing cottages hug the bay, fronted by laundry lanes. During a hurricane in 1953, many houses were destroyed and many residents chose not to return. When I go, I don’t see a soul. At Pennan, the waves crash against the whitewashed shore, sending spray up to my knees. I can only imagine a real winter storm here or trying to survive on a small fishing boat. The red telephone box made famous by the 1983 film Local Hero still stands on the foreshore, as does the Pennan Inn.

As I traveled further east, I began to see how the fishery had changed. In Macduff, large commercial fishing boats are located offshore, in Fraserburgh it is a wide pelagic trawler. After a walk on Fraserburgh’s pink sand beach, I take the coastal road south as the sun sets, lighting up the golden fields.

Tonight my destination is the luxurious Maryculter House and after a windy day I have booked the Cozy Night Package. It starts with a flight of Gin and canapés in the Great Hall. And what a hall it is. Built by the Knights Templar in 1225, this towering stone room features a fireplace on either side, armored knights, and ceiling-high oil paintings. Later Maryculter House was home to a Jacobite family from Culloden and more recently a couple who survived the sinking of the Titanic. If only these walls could tell stories.


I’ve barely scratched the surface of Aberdeenshire, but I know how history and industry have shaped the landscape. I am planning to visit future castles, the harbor festival at Portsoy and walks along the quayside and riverside. Many stories are still being told. If you’re looking to plan your own North East adventure, Visit Aberdeenshire is an invaluable resource.

Stonehaven www.Paddleboardingshpb.co.uk

Visit Aberdeenshire www.visitabdn.com

Bay www.thebayfishandchips.co.uk


Five weapons

World-class art meets luxury at this luxurious Braemar hotel. It was recently voted the best hotel in the UK by Condé Nast – book a room and see if you agree.


Mary Culter House

Located in beautiful Deeside and dating back to 1225, this is a unique venue offering the best food and service.


MacLeod House and Lodge, Trump International Golf Links

If you like gold, glitz and glamor with golf, this is the place for you. Arrival by helicopter is optional.


Banchory Lodge

At the confluence of the River Dee and the River Fegg in the heart of Royal Deeside, this comfortable hotel offers a relaxing stay and is an ideal base for exploring the area.


A house in Dunesay

The elegant Dounesside home, run by the MacRobert Trust, is steeped in history. The delightful garden is an RHS companion with beautiful terraces, rock pools and a walled garden to explore.


Darroch Learg

Nestled in the hills of Craigendarroch near Ballater, this tree-lined inn is a charming quiet retreat with excellent food.


Delicious food that will put a smile on your face

Aberdeen residents are already familiar with Kevin Dalgleish’s Amuse, which has been a word-of-mouth sensation since it opened in July. If you live elsewhere, it’s time to take a trip to Granite City. Dalgleish (below) is one of the North East’s most respected chefs, training at the Savoy and then working at Ackergill Tower and The Chester Hotel. Amuse is his first solo venture.

Located just below street level, the restaurant is flooded with light streaming through exposed brick walls and large internal porthole windows. It’s elegant yet relaxed, with leather banquette seating, squashy tweed cushions and lots of plants. Chilled soul music and friendly staff complete the atmosphere. Oil paintings of people, fish and crustaceans adorn the walls.


For me, the best menus are short, seasonal and fun, and Amuse’s lunch offers just that: four starters, six mains and four desserts with tough decisions at every turn.

I start with the East Coast Dressed Crab Salad, which is excellent: sweet crab in a parsley mayonnaise, citrus leaves, and crunchy balls of apple, cucumber, and kohlrabi.

The Royale Seafood Gratin is my crowning glory. Generous portions of haddock, salmon and cod swim in creamy onion and Emmental velouté sprinkled with crispy shallots and potato flakes. If this is Dalgleish’s take on the North East’s favorite Cullen Skink, then he’s nailed it. It’s rich and luxurious, and the fish is tender and flavorful, as a glass of Pecorino is the perfect match, he advised.


I’m stuck on pudding: pavlova, chocolate, molasses or cheese, how on earth can I choose? “The chocolate is great,” the waiter told me, and to my delight, he was right. Orange, candied kumquats and “hundreds and thousands” – smooth Valrhona chocolate with honeycomb and chocolate crunch and lightly salted hazelnut cream. Kevin Dalgleish dropped by my desk to say hello and found me staring into the chocolatey depths of my bowl, almost at a loss for words.

I climb back up to street level, the trees in the Queen’s Terrace Garden ablaze with color, the sky turning blue. Maybe it’s the chocolate rush, the wine at lunch, or my indulgent enjoyment of a really great meal, but I’m a little bit in love with Amuse.

1 Queen’s Terrace, Aberdeen AB10 1XL


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